April 22, 2010
Aboriginal Policy in Australia and Canada
From Handout to Hand-Up
The Australian referendum of 1967 approved amendments to the Australian Constitution which allowed the Federal Government to make special laws that applied to Aboriginal Australians. As a result, since 1967, Australian governments have put in place policies and programs with the aim of achieving positive social and economic outcomes for Aboriginal people. However, over four decades later, the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is still unacceptably wide. In fact, some studies suggest the gap is actually widening.1
Canada faces similar issues in closing the gap between their indigenous and non-indigenous citizens. While Canada and Australia both enjoy a high ranking on the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI)—8th and 4th respectively—their indigenous people are considerably worse off, comparatively sitting at 32nd and 103rd. This situation of Aboriginal people living in Third World conditions highlights the need for urgent action in both countries.
An overview of the history of Aboriginal policy and relations in Australia in comparison to Canada provides a useful context for policymakers in both countries. Some of the negative experiences in Australia can also serve as a warning to governments in Canada, whereby if some of the problems faced in Canadian Aboriginal communities are not addressed soon, drastic interventions may be needed.
is the Frontier Centre’s international student intern who is working primarily on the Euro-Canadian Healthcare Index, where she will be collecting data on Australian health care systems. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Law at Notre Dame University in Fremantle, Western Australia. She has previously completed an Honours Degree in Health and Exercise Science at the University of Western Australia and combines studying for her law degree with working in Strategic Policy, Planning and Research at the Department of Sport and Recreation in Western Australia where she gets to work on a range of projects from workplace health promotion to Australia's bid to host the FIFA World Cup.